>In this article by AP news today, it is announced that the U.S. will be getting rid of their color-coded terror warnings. I see this as a small victory on the true ‘war on terror’ that has been plaguing us for a good ten years.
A culture of fear
Ever hear of the term ‘Culture of fear’? You have now. I highly recommend you check out the article in Wikipedia. In a nutshell, it is the (ab)use of people’s fears in order to meet your (generally political) goals. In Terry Pratchett’s A Hat Full Of Sky, a family is getting sick because their privies are right next to their drinking water. When explained that they’re getting sick from tiny animals because of the proximity of their outhouse to the water, and that they’ll feel better if they move it farther away, the family nods vigorously to the recommendation and doesn’t do anything. However, when told that water gremlins are attracted to the smell of the privies, the family takes action the same day.
Fear is a powerful tool for change. It is used in anything from parenting to politics; it’s uncomplicated, easy to spread, and drives people to relinquish even the most basic of rights. If you’re a reader of Bruce Schneier’s blog (http://www.schneier.com/), you’ve probably noted how often he touches upon this topic.
How do the color-coded terror warnings fit in?
Perfectly. They are easy to understand: Green = Safe. Red = Screwed. They require no empirical evidence. The put the fear of God in people — and to state this simple fact is laughable, therefore they are incontestable.
Myself, I’ve only seen the nation in an orangey-red state. Never seen green. Have you?
The official announcement is scheduled for later today, I believe, during which the replacement will be detailed; but it’s looking like this silly system’s going to be replaced by a more descriptive, audience-specific solution. “When agency officials think there is a threat the public should know about, they will issue an announcement and rely on news organizations and social media outlets to get the word out,” according to the article. This makes a lot more sense – instead of letting one of four colors tell you how afraid you should be, you get a page describing the threat and how you may be affected. Don’t know about you, but I’m all for that.
Fear can mobilize; but too much of it has the opposite effect. This is a small step to overcome the paralyzing fear the world has gotten itself tangled up in for the past decade, but hey: petit à petit, l’oiseau fait son nid.